Over the years as I’ve helped churches make connections with mission teams and partners, I’ve worked with many churches that had difficulty finding partners. They’re not impossible to partner with, as nothing is impossible for God (Luke 18:27), but they do have extra challenges. I would encourage pastors and churches seeking to go on mission, to work through these challenges with sensitivity and the power of Christ. Sometimes these churches are the ones who are most in need of partners!
A Church in Transition: These churches are in the process of searching for a new pastor. Although they are currently without a pastor, there is still a great need for these churches to actively engage their communities with acts of service and evangelistic events. A partner church can help by providing a point person to assist with formulating plans and sending a mission team to help carry out the logistics.
A Church in Need of Revitalization: These churches may be down in attendance and are beginning to lose their passion for looking outward and making disciples. Some of their organization and communication structure may be lacking, or they may have experienced a traumatic event that has undermined leadership, attendance or ministry. These churches need partners just as much as brand-new church plants. Just as churches plant churches, churches must revitalize churches.
An Ethnic Church: Some first-generation ethnic culture churches thrive in American culture, but others struggle immensely. Often, these ethnic churches fail to understand how God can strengthen their work through such partnerships. Other times, they may not understand how to connect with American church networks, how to create partnerships and how to communicate effectively in American culture. Of course, American churches and leaders also fail to reach across the cultural divide, finding it too hard due to communication issues, lack of cultural understanding, unrealistic expectations or the overwhelming need for resources. But at the end of the day, these ethnic churches need partners. They are too often under-served while valiantly trying to grow a church from the grassroots up.
A Non-vibrant Church: It can be difficult to get a partnering church excited about doing a mission trip for the third time to a church that, well, isn’t very exciting. They may be small. They may lack internal momentum. They may be located in some unknown town a million miles from a tourist location. While the lack of glamour may undermine enthusiasm, we have to more carefully examine God’s great mission to reach all the people and points around the globe. Christ made clear that we’re to go to all the world, which includes places that may not feel exciting (Acts 1:8).
Don’t give up on creating partnerships with these churches! God could use churches like yours to help strengthen, encourage, enliven, revitalize and grow an under-served church.
On the other hand, if you’re a church that has had a difficult time partnering, contact Tim Buehner. Ministry in New England is tough enough; you don’t have to go it alone.
Tim Buehner is the mobilization and ministry evangelism coordinator at the Baptist Convention of New England.